Leading a Paradigm Shift in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine

Article by Marie Robey Wood

Photography by Brandt Penuel

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

“Physician, heal thyself,” the old proverb states. Some medical practitioners turn this saying around to “Patient, heal thyself.” They believe in using regenerative medical treatments that focus on helping individuals use their body’s own healing abilities before resorting to surgery.

One of these doctors is John Ferrell, MD,  a board-certified Family Medicine Physician. After serving four years in the Navy and participating in fellowships in sports medicine and musculoskeletal sonography, which included  working with the Redskins, the Washington Nationals and the players of DC United, he opted for private practice. In 2014 he co-founded Regenerative Orthopedics and Sports Medicine - ROSM - with Dr. David Wang and the late Dr. Victor Ibrahim. Placing an emphasis on innovative technology and a holistic approach to healing, the practice has expanded from one office on Capitol Hill to six offices throughout the area, employing eleven doctors and two physician assistants.

According to Dr. Ferrell, their practice fills in the gap between cortisone injections, physical therapy and surgery for a vast array of medical conditions. He notes that when a patient believes that those are the only three options, a lot of time he will stop seeking medical treatment. He adds, “So many people are walking around like this, suffering and in pain, that we want to let them know that’s there’s an option that is safe, effective, and has evidence behind it.”

Dr. Ferrell and his fellow physicians at ROSM feel there is a better way: “We want to treat people and help them get better without having them go under the knife.” They offer minimally invasive therapies such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), where a patient’s blood is drawn,  transferred to a centrifuge tube and spun to concentrate the platelets. The concentrated platelets are then injected into the injury site to stimulate growth factors. Other minimally invasive therapies include bone marrow and adipose-derived therapies.

Dr. Michael Auriemma joined ROSM three years ago. His primary training is in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He spent five years of training after medical school, including one year of a sports medicine fellowship through Harvard in a program that offered extensive training in orthobiologics, the substances orthopedic doctors use to help injuries heal more quickly.

Both doctors believe that the typical medical system rewards fast turnover in terms of seeing patients in volume. “Our practice has a different approach: we see fewer patients to delve into a patient’s issue to not just treat the symptom but to find the cause of that symptom.,” they say.

According to Dr. Auriemma, “One element that sets ROSM apart from a typical orthopedic  office is the ultrasound imaging we offer right at the patient’s bed side as an extension of the exam. We’re getting real-time feedback as to what the joint and soft tissues look like. Somethings that obviates the need for an x-ray or MRI and sometimes it supplements and complements imaging provided by the x-ray or MRI. “ He adds, “This way, our procedures are all image-guided and there is no guess work. This is redefining orthopedics.”

The doctors at ROSM don’t discount the idea that for some patients, surgery is the answer, but believe that the vast majority of patients don’t need it. If their patient does need surgery they will refer them to a surgeon and if they need physical therapy, (although they don’t offer it on-site), they will send a patient to an office that offers physical therapy.

Dr. Ferrell says “We offer realistic expectations and are guided by ethics.” In addition, the vast majority of doctors in the practice are involved with different national organizations and thought leaders, and participate in curriculums with those thought leaders, innovators and pioneers in their field. Dr. Auriemma adds “Another thing that sets us apart as a private practice group is we hold monthly academic meetings where we talk about new articles and FDA guidelines to stay abreast of what is current.” Although their treatments are currently not covered by insurance because they are still considered “experimental”, they are hopeful that eventually a groundswell of patients will ask insurance to cover them, considering they are effective and are much less expensive than surgery.

According to Dr. Auriemma, “We are passionate about what we do. When a person has an injury or ongoing chronic condition that won’t go away, that affects someone’s mental and physical health.” He adds, “We deal with quality of life,  and when we restore someone’s quality of life, that’s just a game-changer.”

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